The future stars of Ohio State football officially begin their college careers, as standouts from all over the country put pens to their National Letters of Intent.
Larry Johnson and the Ohio State defensive line will lose a number of key contributors following the 2017 season, and replenishing the unit is likely the the team's biggest task for the 2018 recruiting class. With the looming departures of Tracy Sprinkle and Michael Hill, adding to the interior portion of the line is imperative. Fortunately for Johnson, the addition of four-star JUCO tackle Antwuan Jackson should give a major boost in the trenches.
The Jackson File
- Class: 2018
- Size: 6-foot-3, 305 pounds
- Pos: DT
- School: Blinn College (Brenham, TX)
- Composite Rating: ★★★★
- Composite Rank: 1 (JUCO DT)
The Buckeyes don't often dip into the JUCO ranks, but it has happened occasionally and has paid dividends in the past. Kendall Sheffield – who started at Alabama before transferring to Blinn College – signed with Ohio State last January and the former five-star cornerback saw significant playing time in his first season under Greg Schiano and Kerry Coombs' tutelage. This cycle the Buckeyes returned to Blinn and have signed yet another one of the nation's top JUCO prospects.
Jackson's journey to Columbus has been an interesting one. The Buckeyes finished a close second to the Auburn Tigers back in December of 2015 when the Georgia native made his initial commitment. It turned out that Auburn just wasn't the place for Jackson, who was expected to contribute at defensive tackle in 2017. He elected to pursue other opportunities, and was hoping for immediate playing time following a transfer. The Tigers had other plans, however.
Ohio State was apparently one of the schools that Auburn didn't want Jackson playing for, at least not immediately. Other blocked programs included the SEC schools and Clemson. He had previously built a strong relationship with Larry Johnson and clearly had his sights set on a move to Columbus. He had no problems voicing his displeasure with the process.
“My question was: Why are they blocking Ohio State for no reason?” Jackson said, per thestate.com. “They just put Ohio State on there for no reason. My question to them is why are they blocking me from a Big Ten school when they don’t have anything to do with Big Ten schools? Why didn’t they block me from Michigan or Indiana or any other Big Ten school? Why would they do that immediately?”
This is so unfair how there blocking me from a school that recruited me out of school. So inconsistent with their transfer restrictions https://t.co/BjMmbNfeEA— Antwuan Jackson (@Hercules__52) June 13, 2017
So it was off to Blinn College where Jackson quickly became one of the most sought after players among the JUCO ranks. Ohio State entered the picture with an offer and the Crimson Tide followed suit in late August. The 6-foot-3, 305-pounder currently checks in as the No. 1 defensive tackle and No. 3 overall player in junior college.
Just a few short weeks after the Buckeyes once again extended an offer, Jackson elected to commit to Larry Johnson and the Ohio State staff. The groundwork had certainly been built from the first go-around, and the Buckeyes used that to nab one of the country's top prospects who plays a position of great need.
He became the 18th commitment for the Class of 2018 and joined five-star Taron Vincent along the interior defensive line. Four-star Idaho product Tommy Togiai has since done the same, and the trio makes up what is expected to be the top group of defensive tackle signees in the entire nation.
With Jackson, Ohio State should be getting a player that is ready to contribute right out of the gate, and that may very well be needed in 2018. The aforementioned departures plus the chance of Dre'Mont Jones testing the NFL waters means that playing time will absolutely be available, and Jackson may find his way into the two deep early on in his career.
The Buckeyes are likely to employ a defensive tackle rotation that will feature the likes of Robert Landers, Jashon Cornell, DaVon Hamilton, Haskell Garrett, and others. Jones would surely lead the charge if he does in fact return for his redshirt junior season. Regardless, Larry Johnson should have the bodies and adding a player with experience at the FCS and JUCO levels will only strengthen a unit that has performed admirably under Johnson's guidance.
Ohio State's recruiting has hardly struggled under Urban Meyer, but there was a time when one of the few criticisms involved the interior defensive line. It's just not easy for a team from the Midwest to go into SEC territory and sign a player like Jackson or the plethora of talented prospects that seem to come from Louisiana, Georgia, and Alabama every recruiting cycle. Oftentimes they simply have to resort to looking elsewhere.
The Buckeyes brought in Las Vegas' Haskell Garrett in February, and now the additions of Jackson, Vincent, and Togiai should further hush any concerns surrounding Ohio State's ability to recruit at the position.
It's been an interesting ride for Antwuan Jackson, but he appears to have found a new home in Columbus and is set to arrive in January.